ZocdocAnswersHow does bypass surgery treat coronary artery disease?

Question

How does bypass surgery treat coronary artery disease?

My grandfather has had heart problems for as long as I can remember. Now his doctor wants to do bypass surgery. Of course I'm nervous, but happy if it'll help. How can surgery help him.

Answer

It is important to discuss this question and any other you may have with your grandfather's doctor. If your grandfather's doctor is recommending a bypass surgery, then he has coronary artery disease. Bypass surgery used to be the only method we had to treat coronary artery disease. It works by creating a new blood vessel that acts to deliver blood to the heart muscle and "bypasses" the native vessel that is blocked with atherosclerosis. Today, we can treat these blockages with other methods such as coronary artery catheterization and stent placement. However, in cases where there are 3 vessels in the heart that are blocked, or when the left main vessel is blocked, we recommend bypass surgery instead of stent placement. The only way to determine which of the treatments a certain patient should get is to perform a diagnostic left heart catheterization. I imagine if your grandfather's doctor is recommending bypass surgery, this catheterization must have already been done. The type of physician that performs a bypass procedure is cardiothoracic surgeon. However, patients are typically referred to a cardiothoracic surgeon from a cardiologist. For that reason, I would suggest that he continue to follow-up with his cardiologist to make sure that the bypass surgery is indicated. For people that meet the criteria to have the surgery, most of the time it really helps and people live more active lives after.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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